Hand-picking the top tech stories of the year is no easy feat. Each year, tech’s rapid growth and industry swallowing behaviors result in a slew of headlines ranging from crucial information to downright hilarious mishaps. To really dig into the top tech stories, there has to be a solid mix of content. We’ve poured through thousands of top articles, news sites, and social media platforms to find that stories that stuck.
Blockchain madness, missile scares, data leaks, major hacks, meltdowns, and helium madness all inched their way into our top spot this year. So, sit back, grab some popcorn, and get ready to enjoy a look back at this year’s craziest and most impactful IT stories.
CVE Scares (Spectre + Meltdown)
News of Spectre and Meltdown broke on January 4th, as it was independently discovered by 3 sources (Google’s Project Zero, Cyberus Technology, and 4 researchers from Graz University of Technology) as a vulnerability that impacted the architecture of modern processors, which made the vulnerability significant across multiple generations, tech channels, and devices.
Both Spectre and Meltdown allow users to access data being processed on all impacted hardware (which includes Intel, AMD, and ARM processors.)
As of now, no one is sure whether or not these attacks have been carried out in the wild, but preventative software updates have rolled out across platforms.
Articles relating to Spectre and Meltdown:
- Meltdown and Spectre: what are they and what should I do? - HackerNoon
- Apple says Spectre and Meltdown vulnerabilities affect all Mac and iOS devices - Washington Post
- The New Way Your Computer Can Be Attacked - The Atlantic
Fortnite Teaches Kids About Personal Security
Trying to force kids (and adults) to partake in secure internet practices is no easy feat. Thus, when Fortnite decided to reward anyone who turned on two-factor authentication with a unique emote, we were pleasantly surprised.
This is one of the best examples of promoting personal security that we’ve seen. Instead of forcing two-factor authentication onto people, rewarding them for taking the initiative to set it up and learn why it helps protect them is a smart move. This is especially true when the game promoting it happens to be played by a whopping 78 million players a month.
Articles relating to Fornite two-factor authentication:
- Fortnite: How to Enable Multi-Factor Authentication - GameRant
- Epic gives Fortnite players a free emote if they secure their accounts - Polygon
GitHub Weathers a DDoS Hurricane
On Feb 28th, 2018, GitHub weathered the largest DDoS attack recorded to date. The attacker used a Memcached DDoS attack method to send massive packet sizes to GitHub servers. Of course, the interesting thing here wasn’t that GitHub was hit with a massive DDoS attack, it’s that GitHub recovered. With headlines splashed around that GitHub (with the help of Akamai Prolexic) “defeated” the largest DDoS attack, it’s no surprise that the attack stopped after a few minutes.
In fairness, the attack was able to disrupt services for ~5 minutes, but almost all of the damage was quickly mitigated.
Articles relating to GitHub facing the largest DDoS attack ever recorded:
- GitHub hit with the largest DDoS attack ever seen - ZDNet
- GitHub Survived the Biggest DDoS Attack Ever Recorded - Wired
Hacking is Fishy Business
As IoT continues to explode, cybersecurity elements are still in the “evolving” stage. Of course, we’ve seen a few IoT hacks over the last year — including some massive IoT botnets.
However, some attacks are headline worthy. For example, April 15th, 2018 a major casino got hacked via its fish tank thermometer. The hacker used the internet-connected thermometer to weasel their way into the network, eventually stealing client data and withdrawing it through that very same thermometer and into the cloud.
Articles relating to the fishtank fiasco:
- Casino Gets Hacked Through Its Internet-Connected Fish Tank Thermometer - TheHackerNews
- Hackers once stole a casino’s high-roller database through a thermometer in the lobby fish tank - Business Insider
If there was one piece of tech news that impacted each-and-every one of us — business owner or not — it was the rollout of GDPR. These sweeping data regulations significantly altered the way that we all handle, store, and give away data.
GDPR is a long, complicated document. Thus, we’re going to link some resources that will help you navigate these complex regulatory shifts. GDPR resources:
- The European Commission’s Official GDPR Document
- EU GDPR Portal
- UK Information Commissioner’s Office
Facebook: A Year of Disaster
Image of a Facebook screen on tablet representing Facebook.[/caption]
Oh boy, where do we start with this one? Facebook has had a rough year. We went from Mark Zuckerberg’s New Years Resolution of “fixing” Facebook to Cambridge Analytica, to the related Senate hearings, to a massive data leak (+50 million users), to the current drama surrounding Sheryl Sandberg, and smear campaigns.
Facebook stocks went from $181 at the beginning of the year to its current $140 valuation. The drama seems to be continuing, and we’ve all learned some valuable lessons about transparency in the process. No one is immune to criticism.
The constant evolution of Net Neutrality regulations has been an ongoing subject throughout the year. The current state of Net Neutrality is complex. The Obama administration’s 2015 Open Internet Order was partially repealed, and regulators continue to battle out the Net Neutrality process, which may expire in coming weeks. We’re also in the middle of a scandal involving fake net neutrality comments.
Fortunately, all of the philosophical complexities surrounding net neutrality was perfectly summed up by an unlikely source — Burger King.
Here are some resources to familiarize you with the current Net Neutrality process:
- Congress has a couple more weeks to reinstate Obama-era net neutrality - CNET
- The net neutrality fight isn’t over. Here’s what you need to know - CNET
A Year of Blockchain
It’s been a big year for blockchain. As Bitcoin — and virtually all other altcoins — continue to plummet, the outlook for both crypto’s and blockchain technology as a whole is actually looking brighter than it did in 2017. Bitcoin has been utilized 10x more for charitable donations than it did in 2017. With Bakkt on the horizon and an upcoming Chinese utilization of bitcoin to help fund its $1 trillion One Belt, One Road program, the future is bright for crypto, despite the current market volatility.
Blockchain and cryptocurrencies philosophy of decentralization continues to pick up steam, especially with well-established financial institutions. Of course, the current bear run in the market is something to watch — and the future of crypto (not blockchain) is still up-in-the-air.
The Hawaii Missile Scare
Hawaii’s emergency management office takes the cake for “tech blunder of the year”. Not only did an employee ”press the wrong button” sounding missile alarms and send a massive wave of panic throughout the small island, but the pictures from the office showed a dismal state of security.
Accidentally alerting an entire island with 1.4 million residents of a non-existent missile impact is definitely a tech “screwup” if we’ve ever heard of one.
Crazy Accident Destroys Every iOS Device
Probably the most unusual news this year comes from user u/harritaco on Reddit. A multi-practice facility installed a new MRI machine only to learn that every iOS device in the building had been disabled. At first, everyone was wondering if it was a small EMP blast. Of course, something seemed strange when it was discovered that only iOS devices were impacted.
As it turns out, setting up an MRI machine requires boiling tens of liters of helium. There was a leak, and the resulting helium impacted all of the iOS devices in the facility. Luckily, they were all recovered. Apparently, iOS devices are temporarily (or in some cases permanently) disabled via helium.
This was definitely one of the strangest tech news stories of the year.
2018 was a drama-filled, strange, and unique year for technology. From a fake missile crisis to Facebook’s continuous drama, these were our picks for the top tech stories of the year.
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